Swiss fine climate activists after flights disrupted

GENEVA (AFP): More than 100 climate activists arrested in protests that disrupted flights at Geneva airport this week have been charged with a range of offences and fined, Swiss prosecutors said Wednesday.

The activists broke into Europe’s biggest private jets sales fair on Tuesday, significantly disrupting flights at the adjoining airport.

Police arrested 103 people, and had handed all but one minor over to prosecutors and to a juvenile court, Geneva prosecutors said.

They are “all guilty of trespassing, property damage and coercion,” according to the prosecution, which said it had handed out suspended fines to all those with no prior convictions.

One of the arrested had injured a police officer and was guilty of violence or threats against authorities, the prosecutors said.

All of those detained had been released, or would be shortly, the prosecutors said.

Geneva Airport, Switzerland’s second-biggest, said several dozen activists “broke and entered three different locations on the tarmac” before midday Tuesday.

The activists penetrated a surrounding fence and infiltrated the adjoining space of the three-day European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition (EBACE).

Several people chained or handcuffed themselves to the aircraft on display and other objects, “causing damage and preventing the event from proceeding,” prosecutors said.

“For security reasons, air traffic was halted for an hour,” they added.

Images published on Twitter Tuesday showed activists camped out around the aircraft on show, brandishing colourful banners reading “Ban private jets” and “Private jets burn our future”.

Groups involved in the protest  included Greenpeace, Stay Grounded network, and Scientist Rebellion and Extinction Rebellion, which voiced concern Wednesday at reports of “excessive use of force against the peaceful protesters”, demanding that all those detained be immediately released.

“This is one of the largest private jet fairs in the world –- a world that is heading towards climate breakdown,” said Stay Grounded’s Mira Kapfinger.

“It was totally legitimate to disrupt these business people. While buyers are shopping for ever bigger and polluting jets, others are suffering severe consequences from heat waves and floods.”